Heather O’Reilly, in her first game since retiring from the national team, converted the game-winning penalty kick to help FC Kansas City to a come-from-behind, 2-1 victory over Orlando Pride in the final match of the season for both clubs. Jasmyne Spencer staked the Pride to a 1-0 lead after halftime and Tiffany McCarty equalized in the opening minutes of the second. The loss extended the Pride’s winless run to eight games.
The first half saw the Pride control the midfiled with superior possession and a strong, defensive effort that prevented the Blues from creating much of a buildup. In the 16th minute, Kristen Edmonds won a free kick and then stood over it before driving it low into the FC Kansas City wall. The ball rolled into space just on top of the 18-yard box. That’s where Spencer walked up to it and gave it a smack with her left foot that found the upper 90 for her 4th goal of the season.
The visitors came out of the lock room for the second half a different team and the dividends were nearly immediate. Off a throw-in barely a minute into the half, Lo’eau LaBonta made a smooth pass to unlock O’Reilly down the left flank. O’Reilly beat Dani Weatherholt and got off a shot or cross that Ashlyn Harris punched away. The punch went right into the path of McCarty who was following up the play and made a simple touch for her 2nd goal of the season.
FC Kansas City were the better side the rest of the half. They nearly scored again when Harris made a strong save on McCarty and then had to make another after the rebound found Shea Groom.
The winning sequence began as much ado about nothing as Brittany Taylor, completing a second seasons playing every minute, made a run into the box. Finding no options she turned and went to dribble outside the area but was tripped from behind by Maddy Evans for a penalty call. O’Reilly stepped into the penalty and beat Harris even as the keeper guessed correctly. For O’Relly, who missed an opening night penalty that would have equalized in stoppage time, it was her 1st goal of the season.
Despite the win, FC Kansas City (7-8-5, 26 pts) will finish 6th or 7th, the former being only if Sky Blue lose to the Thorns on Sunday. It marks the first time the Blues have missed the playoffs. The Pride (6-13-1, 19 pts) will finish 9th after finishing up on an 0-7-1 stretch. They do not have a 1st round pick in 2017 having traded it to the Flash in exchange for Edmonds and Becky Edwards. Edwards played her final professional match on Saturday, two days after announcing her retirement. The crowd of 7,454 have her a loud ovation when she was replaced by Evans during the 2nd half.